This Is Your Permission to Fail
fail (v): to be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal
We’ve been doing it since day one - all day, every day. Crying for a parent’s attention and failing. Trying to catch a ball and failing. Skiing down a slope and failing. It wasn’t a big deal. Sometimes, it was even kind of fun to lose a board game or to fall on our butts. Failing wasn’t so bad. It was just a part of the process.
Until… DUN. DUN. DUN. Letter grades.
I started receiving letter grades on my report card when I was 9. Since childhood, students are ranked on a scale frin A to F based on “academic performance,” assuming that the goal is to get 10 out of 10. Then based on these grades, many of us received more judgmental statements about who we were, than constructive feedback for our learning.
“You’re so lazy. Why didn’t you try harder?” Judgement.
“You’re so smart! You’re just naturally brilliant!” Also a judgement.
There is an emphasis on being, not becoming. On the current state, not growth. On identity, not action.
We eventually learn to criticize and judge ourselves in similar ways and this unfortunate trend continues on into high school and post-secondary education. And so we shrink. We don’t stretch ourselves for what we could become. We don’t strive for bigger, more challenging goals. We refrain from growth and learning.
Entering adulthood, we are introduced to the consequences of avoiding failures. We’ve heard about the dangers of not trying, of not growing. We’ve read passages that encourage us to embrace failure. But no matter how many inspirational quotes we read, we don’t let ourselves be imperfect or do imperfection.
So this, is your permission to fail.
You are allowed to strive and not achieve.
You are allowed to attempt at success and not succeed.
You are allowed to stretch yourself and fail miserably.
EXERCISE: Finish the following phrase and write it down on a post-it note and stick it on your laptop screen or bathroom mirror. “I give myself the permission to…“ (Go ahead and do it. It might feel silly, but you’ve got nothing to lose.)
And with every failure, ask yourself: what can I learn from this? How can I grow from this? Choose how the experience shapes you.
Failure is not an ending. You don’t just stay a failure forever.
Just as how one success doesn’t keep you a success forever. Life is a continuous chain of failures and successes. Unless you commit the tragedy of staying static, of not fully living the human experience.
Okay, but what about the fear? Whether it’s fear of failure or fear of success, it will always be there. I don’t believe in fearlessness. When we commit to growth and constantly push ourselves, there isn’t going to be a day when we wake up and no longer feel afraid. We feel the fear and do it anyway. Onto the next failure. Onto the next success.
With that, I want to leave you with a question for reflection.
What is your favourite failure thus far? Which failure are you most grateful for? How did it transform you?